THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SPICES & HERBS : AN ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO THE FLAVOURS OF THE WORLD: PADMA LAKSHMI:
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Padma Lakshmi is a famous television host and a successful cookbook author. She is also a well-known fashion model and jewelry designer. She runs a Nonprofit organization for women affected by endometriosis which she founded along with her doctor and savior, Dr. Tamer Seckin in 2009.The Endometriosis Foundation of America (EFA) is dedicated to combating endometriosis through advocacy, focussed research, education, and increasing awareness.
The experience of having travelled across the globe from a young age which added to her passion for cross -cultural food makes her a winner for every book that she writes on cooking. Her earlier book was also on the New York Times Best Seller list. Her reality show Top Chef running for fourteen seasons bagged the Emmys award in 2016 where it was nominated for Outstanding Reality Competition Programme. This is the multi-hyphenate talent Padma Lakshmi’s fourth book.
Padma writes that from early childhood she was fascinated with spices and herbs. Growing up with her grandparents in Kerala, she spent considerable time in the family kitchen watching her grandmother use the locally available spices to delirious effect. Thus the seed of interest in the wonderful flavours of different spices and herbs got planted in her formative years which now is in full bloom as a well grown plant and offering to the readers of her illuminating books access to a wide knowledge of this subject literally from A to Z. This reference book does exactly that. It is an alphabetic compendium of magical ingredients like salts, peppers and of course spices and herbs both familiar as well as obscure which come together from all over the world. She provides the correct botanical name of each ingredient with an in-depth and informative description which makes it comprehensive and scientific. She also provides medical information on how some of the spices can give relief from attacks of asthma, urinary tract infection, etc. Such a diverse range of spices adds the extra attraction to the book. The book has very richly coloured pictures that give the reader a good look, smell and feel for the fascinating flavours that eventually emanate in the end product which is both healthy and delicious. The book has no recipes. But it has suggestions as to how the best dishes can be prepared with an intelligent use of the most unbelievable and exotic seeds and chillies. Her fond attachment to Kalustyan’s, a gourmet food store in New York City, is because of the early exposure that she received in global cuisine. Running around the shop as a young girl, she picked up the aroma and flavor of spices and herbs stocked up from all over the world in this iconic store. Be it South Indian sambhar powder or the mid-east Sumac or Szechuan peppercorns the book has all of them. An interesting fact that the author points out is that are so many similar cuisines throughout the world.
A well-researched and beautiful encyclopedia, co-authored with Judith Sutton also a cookbook author and cookbook consultant, it is a welcome addition to a plethora of books on this genre. Though the book aims at a select audience, it would be of great value to the large libraries the world over. Padma writes lucidly and in a simple and attractive and endearing manner drawing the readers’ attention and keeping it focused without dithering or drifting from the subject. The author does not limit herself to the title of the book. She provides information of the various accoutrements like vinegars, oils, etc which amplify the taste of the food and as well as on toasting spices and preparing tea. Of course, one does not read the boo in one go because it is used for reference. But then the presentation and the information grips the attention of the reader who gets encouraged to read more and more. It is a must read for all cooking buffs as well as well established Chefs. It will help the newcomers from cooking mundane stuff to a high level of eclectic food. It gives them a panoramic and exciting tour of this whole class of plant kingdom which benefits them as a resource and gives them all the pleasures of an exciting adventure which starts from ‘advieh’ and ends in ‘zedoary’.